News & Reviews News Wire NS wins challenge of Indiana blocked-crossing law

NS wins challenge of Indiana blocked-crossing law

By Angela Cotey | September 25, 2018

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Norfolk Southern logoINDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Supreme Court ruled for Norfolk Southern on Monday in its challenge of the state’s blocked-crossing law, finding that Allen County could not fine the railroad for blocking public roads.

The Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette reports that the court, in a 5-0 ruling, said the 1972 state law, which barred railroads from blocking grade crossings for more than 10 minutes, was a direct regulation of rail transportation and therefore preempted by the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act.

Between December 2014 and December 2015, Allen County cited Norfolk Southern 23 times under the blocked-crossing law. Local judges had found for the railroad when it challenged the citations, but the state appealed to the Supreme Court.

The ruling said that the state may have federal recourse for blocked crossings through the Surface Transportation Board’s Rail Customer and Public Assistance Program.

The ruling comes just days after Kansas judges heard a similar challenge by BNSF Railway over a blocked-crossing law in that state. [See “BNSF challenges Kansas law on blocked crossings,” Trains News Wire, Sept. 24, 2018. ] A ruling is pending in that case.

5 thoughts on “NS wins challenge of Indiana blocked-crossing law

  1. Interesting. And if a municipality phones or e-mails the STB’s office of rail customer and public assistance; the staff there will simply send NS an e-mail asking them to comment on the crossing they are blocking. And, within 24 to 48 hours STB will have a response back from the railroad that likely says “we’re not blocking a crossing now”.

  2. If the railroads keep “winning” enough of these cases, it could backfire, leading the Congress to take a new look at the whole issue. Could result in frederal legislation allowing state and local fines. There are a lot of voters who are angry enough about what they feel are high handed tactics and a general we don’t care about the motoring public attitude, that could seek support from their congress members to slap the RR’s.

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